‘A visit to a very old bakery in the village of Zejtun prompted me to bake this old fashioned Maltese chocolate pudding [Pudina] that my grandmother, like most frugal Maltese and Gozitan grandmothers, used to make.
It was an economical cake, the way to use up stale bread and all the bits and pieces in the kitchen store cupboard.
As with most Maltese sweet recipes, I use one given to me by Renato Briffa, passed on to him by his father who owned a confectionery in Old Mint Street, Valletta in the 50s. You can sprinkle it with coconut before serving just as Renato does but I studded it with blanched almonds when I made it on tv this week.
It keeps moist in an airtight container for two or three weeks and the flavour and texture improves a few days after baking.’
For the Maltese Pudina, you will need:
1 loaf of bread and you can use up your stale bread
4 spoons cocoa powder
150g butter (melted)
Zest of 1/4 lemon
Zest of 1/4 orange
4 drops vanilla extract
25 g sultanas
1/4 teaspoon mixed spice
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
Pinch of nutmeg
25g chopped dark chocolate
2 tablespoons jam
1 shot of your favourite liquor
25g canded peel
75g ground almonds
70g custard powder
Milk, enough to bring the mix dropping consistency and more for soaking the bread
A baking tray of 35cm by 25cm x 6 cm deep
Soak the stale bread in milk for at least an hour and then drain it thoroughly by squeezing the milk out using clean hands.
Melt the butter in the microwave and mix all the ingredients together in a large mixing bowl. If you are making a large quantity you can mix by using the k beater and an electric mixer. Or use a large metal spoon as I did on tv.
Spray the baking dish with baking spray [I like coconut flavour or avocado spray for the Pudina] and then pour in the mixed pudding batter.
Bake at 190 C for about 45 minutes to an hour.
For a gluten free recipe, use a gluten free loaf of bread.
For a lactose free pudina, use a plant-based milk and this is especially good with almond milk. Use chocolate that is lactose free.
For a vegan recipe, use a plant based milk and swap the 4 eggs with 4 tablespoons of linseed ground in 12 tablespoons of water. Use a dairy-free chocolate and a dairy-free spread instead of butter.
To reduce the sugar content, use stevia instead of sugar, sugar-free dark chocolate and a sugar-free jam
‘Zejtun brought back many memories from my childhood.
A lifetime ago, I spend my childhood in a peaceful southern Maltese village built around an imposing church, where one of my favourite places was Barbetta’s with the strong aroma of yeast, sesame buns and whiffs of vanilla.
Mikiel welcomes me and weeps. I am a face from the past and as his memories come alive, he squeezes my hands and cries with joy. He is the last of the older generation of a family who own an amazing village bakery, built by Mikiel’s grandad in 1858, a busy hub tucked away in a village corner, contented customers forever flowing through the doors
I have been gone too long he says, yes thirty one years is too long, a mature face no longer that of a child but the eyes never change he says. Mmm… the eyes …. now gone is the innocence, with more expression as they carry the burden of the real harshness of life. Oh how wonderful it was to be a child in this village and I feel emotional as I see him weep.
I remember kind people with a heart of gold. We were outsiders here and made to feel at home, made to feel that we belonged and part of the close-knit clan. We are outsiders now, even more so, but the doors still open, and the generosity of spirit is still here. The heat from the ovens wraps around me like a comfort blanket on an unusually very cold day. Comfort food, kind faces, kind words and more smiles.
Mikiel reminisces and I listen to his anecdotes. He speaks of my parents and his admiration for my father. I promise to come back to see him again very soon. He will not allow me to leave without piling his baked goods into my car.’
Lea’s Good Food Everyday airs on Smash TV and you can follow the facebook page
Photography Stefan Stafrace and Ian Noel Pace